The Middle Grade Hero or Heroine

This week I have the opportunity to attend LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) and participate in panels. One of the panels I’ll be on is discussing why we love eleven to fifteen-year-old protagonists. From Harry Potter to Kendra and Seth Sorensen in Fablehaven, we follow the adventures of pre-teens who go about trying to save the world.

I still remember when I turned ten and then eleven. I felt an empowerment, like I could do anything. I was this small farm girl in Idaho, but my dreams were huge. If Gandalf had shown up at my doorstep, I would have gone on a thousand adventures with him if he’d asked.

It’s the time right between being a child where anything is possible, and adulthood, where we sometimes forget that we can do what we set out to do. This age group is ready to go out and save the day, and not fear those things that adults or children fear, because they have something to prove.

When I began writing my book in the Gates of Atlantis series, I quickly fell in love with the characters and how they interacted with those around them. They worried a little less about getting the girl or boy and a lot more about finding a place to fit in while fighting for the world they loved so much.

I believe one of the reasons both adults and children love these characters so much is because it’s an age that everyone can relate to. We’ve all been through that stage, and we’ve felt those torn emotions ourselves.

Back in 2010, I owned a bookstore where we sold books of all genres. The Young Adult and Middle Grade sections outsold anything else by far, and not just to kids. Most adults who came in bought those books as an escape. They told me that they had enough of the adult world all day every day, and they wanted to get away. By going back to these characters, they were able to forget the cares of the world and go fight dragons, trolls, or evil wizards. They could become someone else.

So who is your favorite middle grade protagonist, and why?

Engineering Exciting Excerpts…

The task of engineering exciting excerpts is actually easy for a writer. You’ve already written it.  Now you just have to find it. An excerpt is typically 500 words, and for a short story about 200-250 words. The advice I have is general—pick an excerpt from the first third of your book. Told you it was easy! Although very rarely does that mean that you need to copy and paste the first five hundred words of your story and call it a day. For a short story? Yes—that’s exactly what you do. But not a novel.

Why, you ask?  Well, that’s inherent in the differences between long and short fiction. A successful short story begins with a strong hook. In order to sell a short story, you have to pull the reader in from the very first sentence. With a novel, the creation of the story comes along with a more deliberate pace. With a novel, you want to select a scene that sets up the story and above all makes the reader want to read MORE.

In other words—a cliff hanger.

Say you’re writing a young adult romance novel. A good choice for any YA romance novel excerpt is a scene between the heroine and the hero. A first meeting, perhaps. A confrontation. The moment when the heroine first realizes that there’s something different about this guy.

Say you’re writing a middle grade fantasy novel. Pick a scene that jump starts the action. A fight. The moment when the hero realizes that he or she has a purpose to fulfill. The moment when everything changes.

Once you’ve decided on a scene, the real skill comes into play. You need to pick the moment of that scene where the reader absolutely has to know what happens next. And if the reader wants to know, what does he or she have to do? Buy the book. Which is, of course, the point.

So that’s the kind of scene you want to choose for your excerpt.  And here’s another little hint, too—if you DON’T have a moment like this in your book, then you have some work to do. Every good story should have a moment like this—several in fact. That’s how you want to end a chapter, a POV section. That’s a real cliffhanger—the excerpt, the paragraph, the SENTENCE that forces the reader to turn the page. The moment that the reader thinks, “Well, one more chapter won’t hurt. I’ll just read a little while longer.” That moment is the holy grail for every story in existence. This is how writers should approach every excerpt they choose.

And one last thing—wait to pick your excerpt until an editor has gone through it with you and cleaned it up. The absolute worst thing that can happen here is for spelling and grammar errors to make it through to publication. Your excerpt, like your blurb is part of your sales strategy. You can’t sell a car if the engine doesn’t work, right?  Well, technique—grammar, spelling, structure—is the writer’s engine.  It doesn’t matter how great your story is, it’s not going to run unless those techniques are there and sharp.

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercise, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, TUMBLR, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

How I Fell in Love with Reading. Twice.

When I was young, my mother had to literally force me to learn how to read. I remember she would make me sit for what felt like hours (but was probably only 10 minutes) and practice reading. I hated it. But my mom knew that it was an important skill and so did not give up on me.

Even once I finally started getting the hand of the whole reading thing–I was still really slow. But I did enjoy stories. Then a single book changed everything.

The Boxcar Children, Book 1
The book that changed it all for me.

My mom got The Boxcar Children from the library. We started with book 1 and that was it. I was hooked. My new favorite place was the library and I read everything I could get my hands on. In the course of one summer I went from being two grades behind in reading to being three ahead.

And it was all because of this one book that sparked my love for reading–for the first time.

I recently fell in love with reading again, and not only did it spark my imagination it set me on the right path for my on stories.

See, back then when I was devouring everything I could get my hands on–I quickly found and became fascinated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. But I could not find many for my age group. So I started reading young adult and adult books. That may have helped with my reading comprehension going up so quickly.

Fast forward to my adult life. I had written my very first novel. An adultish/young adultish type story that was a high fantasy and had been my main writing project for over 10 years. I wanted to submit it to a specific publisher. So I went to what is still my favorite place: the library.

I checked out several books published by this company and set about reading them. They were all middle grade science fiction and fantasy stories. And an amazing thing happened. That same spark, the excitement that I got sitting on my mom’s bed while she patiently helped me read The Boxcar Children out loud, came again.

I got to fall in love with reading once again and it revitalized me.

Since then I have been on many reading binges. I really like middle grade but I still read books for young adults and adults. I enjoy it all pretty much. But something else amazing happened after I fell in love with reading again.

I found my niche in writing. Yep, I really liked writing middle grade level fiction. That path led me to releasing my very first novel. (Check out our catalog to see my book and other great books to read).

Now that I am mother, I plan to work as patiently and tirelessly as my mom did and hope that my children get to experience falling in love with reading.

~Krista Wayment

The Most Important Thing a Child Should be Doing

When a child reads a book they view it as a type of mirror world—as if by magic they become the main characters, living and breathing in that character’s mind. Gender holds no boundaries when it comes to this mirror world. Whether they are a boy or a girl, when they read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, they become Harry Potter. When they read The Lightning Thief, they are Percy Jackson. The mirror world is not only beneficial to children because they get to learn about new places, but they get to experience emotions and situations they otherwise might not get to experience. The mirror world is why reading is the most important thing a child should be doing.

81zdSFzJh+LRecently I read a fantastic middle-grade book entitled, Wonder, by R. J. Palacio. This book is about an eleven-year-old boy named August Pullman (Auggie) who was born with mandibulofacial dysostosis, a very rare facial deformity. The book is written in first person so you really get to see into the mind of Auggie and how much others struggle with his face. People cringe, shy away, even scream when they see him. As I stepped into the mirror world and saw things the way Auggie did, I began to feel things I have never felt before. I was suddenly more aware of how I spoke to others and how I treated them. I wanted everyone to feel important. So often children don’t see how their looks and words can hurt others. One of the best lines from the book is: “… sometimes you don’t have to be mean to hurt someone.” Empathy is learned in the mirror world.

The mirror world can not only help children learn to feel what others go through, it can help children overcome fears and challenges. Bullying is something that happens all the time and there’s not much parents and teachers can do to stop it. The best way to extinguish the problem is the victim empowering themselves. The mirror world can do that. I was ecstatic when two years ago I received an email from one of my readers who had been dealing with a bully issue at school. readingThey said after they read about Kaelyn’s experience in The Dream Keeper they felt they could stand up to their bully. Reading had empowered them and their problems with the bully went away. They learned to stand up for themselves through a book! I think that’s amazing.

As parents, as teachers, as librarians, as human beings, we should be encouraging all children to step into the mirror world and embrace the magic within. Share with them good books that made you “feel” something when you read (yes, that means YOU should be reading too). The more they experience the better they will be able to deal with the world around them and understand the people within it.

-Mikey Brooks


New Release!

Cover_Bk5_200x300When it rains, it pours…or so the saying goes. Yesterday fellow Emblazoner, Mikey Brooks released a new book and today I’m releasing the long awaited book five in the award-winning Andy Smithson epic fantasy series, Vision of the Griffin’s Heart!

Synopsis: The evil Abbadon, king of Oomladee’s northern neighbor Hadession, steps up his attacks on Andy and Mom at home in Lakehills, TX over the next year, unnerving Andy as he overhears speculation that Methuselah may no longer be able to defeat this nemesis. But why?

Over a year later, Andy arrives back in Oomaldee to tensions running high as more and more citizens are turned into zolt. But there’s more going on than meets the eye, for the effectiveness of Abaddon’s strikes reveal he’s getting inside information. Could there a spy in their midst?

Despite the chaos, Andy receives a clue for the fifth ingredient needed for the curse-breaking potion, the claw of a griffin. There’s one not-so-small problem however–griffins guard the land of Carta’s gold and silver mines and don’t take kindly to humans. While away in Carta, fears over an imminent attack materialize and Abaddon with his new mage, Fides, enact a campaign of terror no one could have imagined!

Get book on Amazon


Final_300x300 L. R. W. Lee is the award-winning author of the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series which will span seven books when complete.

She writes to instill in readers life-principles including overcoming frustration, fear, impatience and more. She also weaves throughout her writing her narrative that true success in life comes from pursuing responsibility, diligence, and dignity.

Visit her at her website at to find out more.